Foundations of this Program

Foundations of this Program

Music Over Matter

While it’s true that drumline has become something of a serious athletic sport, the art of music is what drives the philosophy of the Heights Percussion Department. So, while we do require players to have a lot of chops, they need to be true musicians and entertainers, not just technical players.

Sometimes our musical education focuses on the academia and technical chores of becoming proficient on our instrument. These are important aspects to develop, but we must remember to stay in touch with why we’re doing it all in the first place. This is why listening to a wide range and variety of music is so important. Listen, listen, listen! The more diverse your musical palette, the more intuitive you will be when playing music with the ensemble. Spend as much time listening to music as much as you practice your instrument. They are mutually beneficial.


This is a percussion program – timing is a very important aspect of what we do. Timing is important for our role within the musical ensemble and for maintaining the integrity of the rhythms we play. Remember: Rudiments are rhythms! Know your rudiments and know them well but be sure you are playing them CORRECTLY – meaning pay attention to how certain sticking patterns affect your rhythmic tendencies. Don’t practice difficult parts at tempi that are faster than what your hands can handle, or you’ll end up practicing bad habits. Learn at slower tempi and pace your learning to game tempo. Warm up before anything. Practice basics and build up to the more technical material. Trust the process!

Practice with a metronome to focus on good timing and rhythmic accuracy. It is perfect to practice with a metronome but be sure to be ready to perform without a metronome. You will need to develop a sense of internal pulse. To make it more enjoyable and realistic, play your various exercises along with music you like to listen to. It’s generally the same thing as using a metronome, but it gives you a musical context on which to base your playing. This is the foundation of ensemble playing. Groove along with it and enjoy it!


This is a top-notch drumline. You must have chops to get by. Your chops (technical strength and proficiency) are one of the basic building blocks of your contribution to the ensemble. This doesn’t mean showing up to the audition with every hybrid rudiment and stick trick ever invented ready to be whipped out at the first chance. That stuff is a lot of fun and we don’t mind seeing it, but it’s not the basis for making music.

We’re more interested in making sure you have a strong foundation of all standard rudiments and techniques at a variety of tempos. This includes very slow tempi! As mentioned above, practice physically demanding parts correctly and do so for extended periods of time. Chops aren’t something you’re going to build in a week. It’s a progressive and continuous process. Once you are proficient at one thing, don’t stop practicing it! Maintain it and build up. Every technique, skill, and understanding we build will transfers to the next.


Everyone’s performance must be authentic! At the levels we strive for, you can’t fake it. It is important that you play with a high degree of confidence and authority so you can be in charge of what you are doing. This doesn’t mean putting on the “mean face” and acting tough. In fact, it’s just the opposite. Confident players play with a level of calmness and relaxation that should “feel good” to both the player and the listener. True confidence is a powerful thing and will help you fit into the line.